Penang is my favorite place in Malaysia. The food culture, the relaxed atmosphere, the art, and community aspect - you could very much spend your entire time in Malaysia right in the heart of George Town and use it as a base to explore the whole island.
There's a number of popular spots so we'll cover the "must do" spots and the thrifty hidden gems that you might not know about 😎
The wider Penang area covers Penang Island where George Town is located and the mainland where places like Butterworth and Bukit Mertajam are located. We're mostly going to be talking about the island, George Town and surrounding areas.
Things to do in George Town | Penang
This list has a bunch of must-do's and some hidden gems as well. You'll get the full Penang experience just by doing a few of these 😎
2. Explore ChinaHouse and try the many home-made cakes and sweets while browsing the art work displayed all around.
3. Chulia Street Night Hawker Stalls - Absolutely phenomenal range of street food, both Malaysian and more than a few stalls serving burgers, falafel wraps, and more. There's nothing you can eat on this street that will not be delicious.
5. Go for a 15-20 minute hike up Penang Hill where you'll get a fantastic view of the island.
7. Visit Avatar Secret Garden which is a 20 minute drive away from George Town. It's a small garden that has many light installations allowing for some cool photo ops and a mini adventure - It's also close to the water for some nice views in the afternoon.
8. Have a relaxed day at Penang Botanic Gardens where you'll see a wide variety of orchids, trees, cacti, ponds and most definitely run into some scheming monkeys.
10. Explore Kek Lok Si Temple - 19th century Buddhist temple with impressive architecture.
11. Grab some fresh fruit and souvenirs at Chowrasta Market or Lorong Kulit Flea Market. Both have quite a range of fruits, vegetables, snacks, and a bunch of other bits and bobs, worth a little exploring. If you can only go to one, go to Chowrasta.
12. Camp out at Monkey Beach - you can organize a boat ride from the coast through the National Park Office for 50RM ($12.5 USD) per person, and organize a BBQ platter to cook around a fire at the beach. Note you can find other providers for boat charter that could be cheaper.
There are tents and bungalows for hire when you get there. It takes about 5 minutes by boat but you can opt for 1-1.5 hour hike, which is the next gem.
13. Do the hike to Monkey Beach through Penang National Park - The hike itself take 1-1.5 hours one way, is beautiful with some nice views, the added bonus is that you'll have a lovely scenic beach when you make it to the end.
14. Do a high ropes course at ESCAPE Theme Park. Also has climbing and zip-lining, the whole package.
15. Get cheap and delicious Nasi Kandar at Deens Maju Nasi Kandar where there's always a line because it's truly a roller coaster of flavor (it moves fast don't worry).
This list is only 15 strong but there's much more to do in Penang than what's mentioned above. Don't be afraid to explore every corner. There are tons of hidden bars, markets, food stalls, and things to do. If you've got the time, spend as much as you can.